Contributed by: Lewis J. Walker, CFP®
Listening to music on internet radio post-Thanksgiving, "Auld Lang Syne" popped up, emphasizing how close the New Year is! At midnight on 12/31 as December fades to January, a year ends, a new year begins. What will you leave behind? What new undertaking will you commence?
In business and investing its common to focus on "exit strategies.'' If you invest in something, how will you get out of it? If you are a business owner, entrepreneur, professional, key person, employee, what is your "exit strategy?" If you are changing roles, how will you exit to a new level of purpose and achievement?
The word "exit" has roots in Latin, exire and exitus, meaning "he or she goes out." In discussions of retirement, "exiting" can have disturbing overtones. The acclaimed ballet dancer Damian Woetzel once reflected, "The retirement timing is always a tricky thing for a dancer. I think it's different for everyone. How do you say goodbye to the thing you have really focused on that much is a tough one. I've always intended to leave in good shape, to exit on a high note." Woetzel, born 1967, performed as principal dancer for the New York City Ballet from 1985 until retirement from the stage in 2008. He found new energy and purpose in his current role as director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program.
Woetzel personifies an observation from self-help book author, Karen Salmansohn, "The best things in life are often waiting for you at the exit ramp of your comfort zone." A door is a pathway to the other side. You cannot exit without entering something or somewhere else. If you have a template for leaving, what is your strategy for a new beginning, an arrival at a new normal? As businessman, investor, and deal maker Edward Lampert knows, "The entrance strategy is actually more important than the exit strategy."
Often that's a problem. One may know what he or she is leaving, be it a completed project (a graduation, for example), a job or career, a role, relationship, or location, but do they know clearly where they are going? Multiple changes may be wrapped up in any life transition. You can get so engrossed in leaving that once the door closes behind you and you stand at the entrance of a new beginning, you take a deep breath and think, "Okay self, now what?" How many college students change majors more than once, change schools, take more than four years to graduate, even drop out? How many students graduate from law school only to realize they don't like law? How many people roar into retirement only to get bored within a few months? How many take a new job and are gone within a year? Maybe that's why German inventor Theophilies Van Kannel in 1881 invented the revolving door ... he understood human nature.
Part of the answer to the perennial human conundrum, how to best "know thyself," is contained in a simple little book, Soar With Your Strengths, by Donald 0. Clifton & Paula Nelson (Dell Trade, 1992). Donald Clifton (1924-2003), the Father of Strengths Psychology, is the original force behind the Gallup Strengths Finder, popularized by the current best seller, Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath (Gallup Press, 2007). Clifton's blueprint for success is disarmingly simple: find out what you do well and do more of it.
Many people leave something because it is not working. Clifton posed a provocative question: "Does failure truly exist, or is it simply an inaccurate match-up of expectations and strengths? Could it be that people are not successes or failures but merely individuals in the right or wrong expectation environment?"
Action one for 2017, buy Strengths Finder 2.0. Take the assessment that comes with the book and gain access to the Gallup website. If you are not excited or energized by any role you are in, you are not operating from strength. You are not functioning within your unique abilities.
As Damian Woetzel learned, he had unique talents, skills, and acquired knowledge, i.e., strengths, that made him a great dancer. But with age, physical limitations take a toll and strengths need to be redirected into new areas that support mission, passion, and purpose. If you discover your natural talents, what you do well, and direct new energy into any life transition or "entrance," no matter what else happens, 2017 will be a phenomenal breakthrough year! How's that for resolution?
Happy strengths-fueled New Year!
Lewis Walker is a financial planning and investment strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group.